[meteorite-list] Follow-up to the Pearce story

Matson, Robert ROBERT.D.MATSON at saic.com
Thu Mar 14 14:59:18 EST 2002

Hi All,

Back at the end of last month, you'll all remember the story
about the bright meteor observed by many in the Baltimore area,
and the sad story about Mr. Pearce and his two young sons who
thought they had found a meteorite associated with that fall.
Instead of hopping on eBay trying to hock their new find
without any testing or classification, they took it to a
more qualified friend for an opinion, who in turn suggested
a NASA/Goddard scientist should examine it and the location
of the recovery.  After passing muster with him, only then
did they drive it down to the Smithsonian to have Tim McCoy
have a look, who would cut off a sample for analysis if it
looked promising.

Alas, the stone turned out to be terrestrial, and the
Pearces were understandably crestfallen.  Not only that,
but the Goddard employee had contacted the media prior
to the Smithsonian trip (which the shy Pearces were
not really in favor of), adding to their embarrassment
when the specimen turned out to be an iron oxide/
cemented sandstone.

The story so touched our own Steve Smith that he decided
he would send the Pearces a real meteorite to soften the blow
of the whole experience.  Inspired by Steve's thoughtfulness,
I offered to do the same.

Steve spoke with Mrs. Pearce over the phone, explaining what
he wanted to do, and she replied that they would e-mail him
their mailing address that night.  (At the time, I think the
Pearces were a little gun-shy following all the media attention
and offers by strangers to buy their "meteorite".)  When the
Pearces e-mail did not arrive, Steve called again (answering
machine this time) leaving his phone number and assuring
them that this was merely a goodwill gesture from a couple
of meteorite aficionados who wanted to thank them for having
done "the right thing."  But Steve received no return call.
Given that Mrs. Pearce had sounded receptive over the phone,
he reasoned that they were just laying low waiting for all
the excitement to blow over (and for them to drop off the
media radar screen).  He decided to let them be for a while.

In the meantime, we reasoned that since there were two boys,
a meteorite each simply wouldn't do.  I cut two partslices
off the new Lost Creek H3.8, put them in padded plastic boxes,
and then gathered up 10 windowed NWA fragments (H's and L's).
This way they'd have something rare with which to start a
collection, but they'd also have some meteorites that they
could handle to their hearts' content, take into school to
show their classmates, and not worry about losing or
breaking a few.

Steve's intended gifts were an excellent complement to mine:
a 23.7-gram etched slice of Canyon Diablo, a 33.7 gram
Sikhote-Alin and two NWA788's (L6) of around 20 grams each.
Our packages were ready to go -- all we needed was an address.

Then it hit me:  if the Pearces are a little spooked by
the unexpected attention of strangers, why not have Frank
Roylance (the Baltimore Sun writer) act as an intermediary?
I had already exchanged a number of emails with Frank at
this point, so I asked him if he would be willing to be
our go-between:

"After the probable embarrassment they feel over the media attention,
we thought it quite possible that the family had become so
disenchanted with the whole affair that they might have a hard
time believing that complete strangers would want to give them
meteorites for nothing.  (But honestly, that's all we're trying
to do.)  So it occurred to me that an approach they might feel
more comfortable with would be for us to mail the meteorites to
you at the Sun, and then you could forward them to the Pearces.
That way, they don't have to give their address to complete

"If you're comfortable acting as an intermediary, and you think the
Pearces would be keen to this approach, we would love to make
this happen.  Steve and I are part of a larger group of meteorite
aficionados who took a particular interest in this story, and
felt that the Pearces should get some reward for having done
the right thing."

Frank checked with the Pearces and they enthusiastically gave
the thumbs-up.  Off our packages went to the Sun, which both
arrived on Monday this week.

Mr. Roylance delivered the meteorite packages to the Pearces
yesterday morning, and thoughtfully took a couple pictures while
he was there.  Unfortunately, Dale had to be at work and the
oldest son was at school, but Mrs. Pearce and son Collin were
home, and they opened the packages together.

"This is far out!" Collin said. =A0"When I grow up I'm going to be a
spaceman and go up in space."

"This has made our day," said Michelle. "There are still fantastic
people in this world."

They had other kind words, but the looks on their faces in the
pictures Frank sent say more than their words ever could.  I've
uploaded two of these images to my website:


I want to publicly thank Steve for being the mastermind behind
this good-faith mission, and Mr. Roylance for helping to make
it happen.  Special kudos are also in order for Ron Baalke, who
posted the original story to Meteorite Central, without which
most of us (not living in Baltimore) would never have heard of it.
And of course none of this would have been possible without the
Meteorite Central forum itself, so everyone here has played a
part in making this happen.

Cheers!  --Rob

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